Nelson Mandela's passing yesterday was felt everywhere, including the sports world. One of the highlights of his career was when he wore the South African Rugby team's (the Springboks) emblem as he appeared at the 1995 Rugby World Cup final. At the time, the emblem was a hated symbol by blacks, so the sight represented a moment of reconciliation between long-separated races.
It's not just how Mandela improved sports and how he used it to bring together a nation. Mandela noted boxing was key in his own development. Deadspin revisited a passage from his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, that describes his relationship with boxing:
Boxing is egalitarian. In the ring, rank, age, color, and wealth are irrelevant. When you are circling around your opponent, testing his strengths and weaknesses, you do not think about his skin color or social status.
I never did any real fighting after I entered politics. My main interest was in training; I found the rigorous exercise to be an excellent outlet for tension and stress. After a strenuous workout, I felt both mentally and physically lighter. It was a way of losing myself in something that was not the struggle. After an evening's workout I would wake up the next morning feeling strong and refreshed, ready to take up the fight again.